Microsoft Shows Off Connected Concept Cars

Windows Automotive platform provides cell-phone integration, Web services and speech support.

LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp.s been talking up the idea of the "Connected Car" for a couple of years now. But this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here, the company actually had real cars to show off that are running its latest Windows Automotive software.

Microsoft launched its Windows CE 4.2-based Windows Automotive release last spring. But it has taken auto manufacturers about a year to deliver cars supporting the new release.

The Windows Automotive platform that has undergone a couple of name changes since Microsoft first launched it in 1998. (It originally was known as "AutoPC" and later as "CE for Automotive.") The platform is the base upon which Microsoft is building its complete "Connected Car" strategy. Windows Automotive is not designed to power cars. Instead, it controls less mission-critical functions, like navigation, on-board e-mail, audio/visual entertainment and the like.

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Here at CES, Microsoft showed off a BMW X5, Cadillac C75 and Hummer H2 running the Windows Automotive software embedded in a prototype "Tbox." Among the new features that the Tbox delivers: hands-free phone support (using Microsofts VoiceCommand software); driving directions; real-time traffic, stock and weather reports delivered as MSN services; and vehicle diagnostics.

"Our job is to make life work in the car," said Peter Wengert, marketing manager for Microsofts eight-year-old Automotive Business Unit.

"Most car systems today do navigation. Our goal is to connect the car to the outside world," Wengert added.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead the full story on Microsoft Watch.